Fodor's Expert Review Gisborne–Opotiki Loop

Gisborne Scenic Drive/Tour

Soak in the beauty of Eastland by driving the Provincial Highway 35 loop between Gisborne and Opotiki—it's one of the country's ultimate roads-less-traveled. The 330-km (205-mile) trip takes about five hours without stops. En route, rolling green hills drop into wide crescent beaches or rock-strewn coves; and small towns appear, only to fade into the surrounding landscape. Some scenic highlights are Anaura Bay, with rocky headlands, a long beach favored by surfers, and nearby islands; it is between Tolaga Bay and Tokomaru Bay, two former shipping towns. Tolaga Bay has an incredibly long wharf stretching over a white-sand beach into the sea, and Cooks Cove Walkway is a pleasant amble through the countryside past a rock arch. Farther up the coast in Tikitiki, you'll find both a gas station and an Anglican church full of carved Māori panels and beams.

East of the small town of Te Araroa, which has the oldest pohutukawa (po-hoo-too-ka-wa) tree in the country, the... READ MORE

Soak in the beauty of Eastland by driving the Provincial Highway 35 loop between Gisborne and Opotiki—it's one of the country's ultimate roads-less-traveled. The 330-km (205-mile) trip takes about five hours without stops. En route, rolling green hills drop into wide crescent beaches or rock-strewn coves; and small towns appear, only to fade into the surrounding landscape. Some scenic highlights are Anaura Bay, with rocky headlands, a long beach favored by surfers, and nearby islands; it is between Tolaga Bay and Tokomaru Bay, two former shipping towns. Tolaga Bay has an incredibly long wharf stretching over a white-sand beach into the sea, and Cooks Cove Walkway is a pleasant amble through the countryside past a rock arch. Farther up the coast in Tikitiki, you'll find both a gas station and an Anglican church full of carved Māori panels and beams.

East of the small town of Te Araroa, which has the oldest pohutukawa (po-hoo-too-ka-wa) tree in the country, the coast is about as remote as you could imagine. At the tip of the cape, 21 km (13 miles) from Te Araroa, the East Cape Lighthouse promises fantastic views after a long, steep climb from the beach. Hicks Bay has another long beach. Back toward Opotiki, Whanarua (fahn-ah-roo-ah) Bay is one of the most gorgeous on the East Cape, with isolated beaches ideal for a picnic and a swim. Farther on, there is an intricately carved Māori marae (meetinghouse) called Tukaki in Te Kaha.

If you choose to spend a night along the loop, there are motels at various points on the cape and some superbly sited motor camps and backpackers' lodges, though you'll need to be well stocked with foodstuffs before you set off. Gisborne's i-SITE Centre can provide information about lodging.

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